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Dark-skinned migrants in Greece singled out
“Every day we see someone who complained of [some form] of racist violence,” said Nikitas Kanakis, president of the Greek section of Doctors of the World, which runs a drop-in clinic and pharmacy in central Athens that treats the uninsured.
Racist attacks are not officially recorded, so statistics are hard to come by. In an effort to plug that gap and sensitize a population numbed by three years of financial crisis, a coalition of rights groups and charities banded together to document the violence.
They registered 87 cases of racist attacks between January and September, but say the true number runs into the hundreds.
“Most of the time the victims, they don’t want to talk about this, they don’t feel safe,” Dr. Kanakis said. “The fear is present and this is the bigger problem.”
‘Blood, honor, Golden Dawn’
Frances William, who heads the tiny Tanzanian community of about 250 people, knows the feeling well.
“People are very, very much afraid,” he said, adding that even when going next door to buy bread, “I’m not sure I’ll be safe to come back home.”
The community’s cultural center was attacked several weeks ago, with amateur video shot from across the street showing a group of muscled men in black T-shirts smashing the entrance.
Earlier that day, children standing outside during a birthday party were threatened by a man brandishing a pistol, Ms. William said.
The recent elections showed a meteoric rise in popularity of the formerly marginalized Golden Dawn, which went from less than half a percent in 2009 elections to nearly 7 percent of the vote and 18 seats in the country’s 300-member parliament in June.
Campaigning on a promise to “clean up the stench” in Greece, the party whose slogan is “blood, honor, Golden Dawn” has made no secret of its views on migrants: All are in the country illegally and must be deported. Greece’s borders must be sealed with land mines and military patrols. Any Greeks employing or renting property to migrants should face punishment.
The party vehemently denies it is involved in racist attacks.
“The only racist attacks that exist in Greece for the last years are the attacks that illegal immigrants are doing against Greeks,” said Ilias Panagiotaros, a burly Golden Dawn lawmaker who divides his working time between parliament and his sports shop, which also sells military and police paraphernalia.
His party is carrying out a “very legitimate, political fight through parliament and through the neighborhoods of Athens and of Greece,” Mr. Panagiotaros said.
The party’s tactics — handing out food to poor Greeks, pledging to protect those who feel unprotected by the police — are working.
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